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Winning Ways - Bits That Suit You & Your Horse


This months feature of the Winning Ways is dedicated to bits, I have listed some of my most winning horses throughout the years. I am listing the bits or headgear I used and why. I’ve also added their breeding. I know I have always been interested in what headgear helps a horse to win and the breeding of winning horses. The combination of turn and run has always been important to me because it takes both to win those tough competitions, along with a dedicated rider.


Horse & Bloodline

Bit or Headgear Used & Why

Cebe Reed

Sire: Frank’s Pal (TB)

Dam: Bay Canary
(Joe Reed II Breeding)



Long Shank Snaffle: I started riding Cebe with this bit. Cebe was a staight turning horse really using his rear end. The snaffle worked good and kept him collected in the turns and also gave me the rate I needed. After he started winning he was such an exceptional athlete I never changed it. I won 52 barrel races in a row and seven horse trailers with this combination. This bit is now hanging in my Trophy Room. I went to the NFR on Cebe on 1968 & 1969.


Sonny Bit O’Both

Sire: Bit O’Both

Dam: My Vornia


Vaquero Bit, steel noseband with straight mouth piece and the” Bit O’Both” Bit: Sonny had lots of natural bend, the Vaquero bit kept him standing up more in his turns, therefore, making his turns quicker. Ed Sims, the famous bit maker designed the “Bit O’Both” for Sonny. This was the very first combination bit that I had ever seen. It had a noseband to get his nose and worked like a snaffle bit in his mouth. Sonny was an extremely consistent horse that went on to win the AQHA and the WPRA in 1980, an accomplishment that has never been duplicated. It's hard to qualify for both in the same year and almost impossible to win both. I went to the NFR on Sonny in 1978-79-80 & 81.


Royal Moon 2 (SI 108)

Sire: Lady Bug’s Moon

by Top Moon
by Moon Deck

Dam: Christie Royal

by Royal Bar
by Three Bars



Combination Bit: This horse could turn a barrel and run faster than any horse that I have ever ridden. The Combination Bit gave me the bend and rate I needed. He had a speed index of 108 and was an extremely consistent horse. It took him only three months of rodeos to qualify for the NFR in 1985. He was hurt in Albuquerque New Mexico and I rode Jetonfer Pay t the Finals.


Swen Sir Bug

Sire: Main Street

by Lady's Bug Moon

Dam: Rezelle Hopeful


JC ran in the Short Shank Combination but the Hollis Hackamore is the bit I worked him in: JC had lots of run but not a lot of rate. The Hollis Hackamore instilled the rate. I usually ran in competition in a short shank combination with a rope over the nose and 3 piece mouthpiece. This bit worked really well. I qualified and ran at the 1987 NFR. I took him to Calgary in 1988 where we became members of the Gold Medal winning American Olympic Team.


Mr. Revolution Bars

Sire:St. Bar

by Three Bars

Dam: Balmette


Short Shanked Hollis Hackamore and a Medium Shanked Combination with a Steel Noseband depending on the ground: This horse loved to run barrels and would have worked in any bit. Both of these headgears worked and left him alone to do his job. His expertise was the big rodeo arenas. He won both go rounds and the average at Reno, NV and I won the Congress plus made the NFR in 1989-1990.


Orange Smash (SP 81)

Sire: Easily Smashed

by East Jet

Dam: Orange Julia (TB)

Start to Finish Bit which consists of a small rope noseband with a sliding gag: Orange Smash was exceptional to watch because of his size and consistency on the barrel pattern. He was awesome in the big arenas. He won Ellensburg, WA., Walla Walla, WA. and Puyallup, WA.; three of the big time rodeos in the same weekend in the North East. Orange Smash won the NHBA World in 1997. He qualified for the NFR in 1998 where in spite of the small size of the arena I got to go to the Gold Coast to pick up my prestigious buckle for Orange Smash winning the go round.

Congratulations to former Josey student June Holman on recently winning Puyallup, WA.


Joe B Jammin

Sire: Joe Tee

by Top Moon

Dam: Jamicks Nedra


Sharon Camarillo Short Shanked Gag: Jack Swaggert along with Sue Bologna, one of my students in the late 1960’s trained and still rides this horse. They let me ride him in 2000 where we ran the fastest time at the Lone Star Finals. We won the AQHA Reserve World Champions in 2002. Jammer always worked good in this bit and it helped him to gather and make fast turns. He won me the title of Equus America, Equus Extreme Champion, in Houston, Texas in 2003 and I got to be featured on the Wheaties box.


Red Man Bay

Sire: Dinky’s Red Man

Dam: Miss Take A Chance
(Boston Mac Breeding)


Short Shanked Combination Bit: Red Man loved to run barrels and required no schooling, just exercise to keep him fit. He is an extremely consistent horse that carried me to multiple wins and placings at many 4D Barrel Races and rodeos. The Short Shanked Combination Bit was the perfect bit for this horse. It helped him to round out his turns and be quick on the back side of the barrels, while using his powerful hind quarters leaving the barrel.



Bits and bitting can be two of the most confusing aspects of horsemanship; however, I will explain what works for my purposes in teaching and riding barrel horses. Bits work on certain pressure points on the horse’s mouth and face; the bars of the mouth (areas of lower jaw devoid of teeth), the tongue, the roof of the mouth and the chin. Whatever bit you use and the way you adjust it influences one or more of these areas. However, no influence is as great as your hands on the reins. They have the strongest effect on the bit in your horse’s mouth. Many times when we put on a clinic or a school, one of the quickest ways we can make a difference in the way a horse is working is by changing his bit. And, when you’re looking at bits, you need to consider the horse AND the rider. I usually like to have a little more bit that requires less pulling on my part instead of having a lighter bit that makes me have to really pull back hard. If you are a heavy handed rider, though, you might want to have a less severe bit, so that you won’t accidentally cue the horse. For my personal preference, I get along better with something over the nose and in the mouth, simply because I’ve won a lot of money with combination-type bits than with any other headgear. On a barrel horse, I like to be able to gather and collect a horse and I like to be able to have the give that comes from having something over the nose. Also, having something over the nose on some horses will help get the nose in a turn. I’ll reinforce bend when I work him in an O’Ring Snaffle, and I sometimes use a running martingale, German Martingale or draw reins to help reinforce the low headset. One thing that really effects headgear and the way it works is the fit. Make sure your bit is properly adjusted in your horse’s mouth.


If you’re not sure of how a bit should fit, ask someone, because different bits fit differently. For example, a snaffle bit loses a lot of it’s effectiveness if it’s hanging loose in horse’s mouth. A hackamore that’s hanging too low on a horse’s nose can interfere with his breathing. Too high on the nose and it’s not effective enough. Keep in mind, too, that new bridles will often stretch the first few times you use them. Check and recheck the fit any time you have new equipment. On old or new equipment (because even new equipment can be faulty) check to see that it is all in good working order. Curb chains and straps are subject to wear. Check the entire bridle and reins each time you ride. Check your bit, too. Make sure there are no cracks or rough places in it that could be causing discomfort for your horse. *TIP: If you buy a horse, try to buy his bridle and bit. If you can’t do that, try to get one just like it and adjust it exactly the same way. Don’t take a chance on not having headgear that he works well in. One group of bits is designed to keep the horse flexible and supple so he bends properly. These are the O-Ring snaffles, or a gag bit or other broken bits. Curb bits and hackamores control the rear end and gather the horse up. Whatever bit I select to compete in, when I’m training and exercising my horse, I use a complimentary bit. For example, if I compete in a stiff bit or hackamore, I’ll exercise and tune my horse with an O-Ring or gag. This keeps him bending. However, if I compete in a bit that gets a lot of bend, like the gag or snaffle, I will exercise and tune my horse in a stiffer bit that gives me control of the rear end and reinforces the 'whoa’.


In either case, I make sure I work and practice enough in my competition bit that I know how to use it properly. I actually own over 100 bits but there are very few that I use. I buy it, try it and usually don’t like it because it doesn’t work. Bits are to help to guide a horse, so you don’t want it to hurt him. Anytime a bit hurts or injures your horse he will not perform for you. We have come up with some ‘complimentary’ bits-combinations that work well together, for practice and competition.


REMEMBER: Sometimes instead of a bit change you might need to work on your horsemanship.


Slow Work & Practice


O-Ring Snaffle for Bending & Flexing

Combination Bit for Getting his Nose
& Collection in the Turns

O-Ring Snaffle for Bending & Flexing

Hackamore or Sidepull for Control
& Stopping

Long Shank Snaffle for Head Positioning

Hackamore for Control and Stopping

Gag Bit for Bending & Flexing

Combination for Getting his Nose and Collection in Turns

O-Ring Snaffle Rigged as a Draw Bit for Bending

Gag Bit for Gathering & Collecting

Stiff Bit for Control and Set

Gag Bit for Bending and Flexing

Long Shank Snaffle for Head
Positioning and Bending

Stiff Bit for Control and Set

Stiff Bit or Hackamore for Rate

Lifter or Correction Bit for
Control & Set

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